The Iraqi authorities have stepped up their efforts to ensure that innocent children born to ISIS fighters are repatriated to their countries of origin
Since the war against ISIS in Iraq came to an end, a new challenge has been brewing, as Iraqi authorities have long since grappled with the sensitive issue of handling children born to foreign ISIS militants who operated in the country.
Children of ISIS militants, often orphaned, abandoned or in need of basic care, are of course innocent of the crimes committed by their parents. As such, the Iraqi judiciary adjudges the most humane solution to be deporting those born to foreign fighters to the countries of their origin.
One man told reporters that he praised the move, arguing that whilst there is an obvious duty of care to these children, the Iraqi authorities are ill-placed to fulfil it given that the children do not have supportive family networks in the country. That said, in many instances, the questions of where the children came from and how they got to Iraq still need answering.
Children’s rights campaigners in Iraq have echoed this sentiment, claiming that deporting the children will enable them to be re-connected with wider family networks who would embrace and provide for them.
One campaigner emphasised the importance of giving “special attention” to the children upon their return home, highlighting the inevitable prevalence of psychological trauma amongst those who witnessed ISIS’ crimes, and the need to ensure a more stable environment back home in which to grow up.
Whilst some of the children in question were born after one or both of their parents moved to Iraq, others are as old as 16 – old enough to remember leaving their countries of origin.
It is believed that the majority of the children have come from Russia, Tajikistan and Turkey, and the process of handing them over to these countries will shortly begin, pending legal procedures. Official figures indicate that 4,000 children from 15 different countries are currently in Iraq.
Following careful coordination with the embassies of their countries of origin, it is expected that the Iraqi judiciary will finalise the children’s deportations.
The Iraqi Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights has said that Iraq is expected to set up courts that will permit children born to ISIS militants to obtain official documentation.
The only documentation given to children born in ISIS-held areas were identification papers handed out by the group itself as part of its so-called caliphate, which Baghdad considers worthless, leaving thousands of children without any form of documentation and preventing them from obtaining schooling and medical care.
Wehda al-Jumaili, a member of the committee, said that these courts will ensure that these children will be legally registered using forms of proof such as eye witness statements.
The scale of the problem has raised fears that if the issue is not addressed, policies denying these children their basic rights could re-ignite grievances that would leave them vulnerable to extremism and recruitment by extremist groups such as ISIS.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), there are an estimated 45,000 children displaced in camps that are missing birth certificates. This number represents one in every five displaced children in camps. Numerous international organisations and human rights groups have urged Iraq to uphold the rights of children and ensure that their rights are not infringed upon.